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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Running out of Time, Part 3

I’ve been sharing some thoughts on the shortage of time we all have, this is the third post so far…  The last one suggested that there are some other considerations other than how much time we may have left that inform our actions…
Running out of Time, Part 3
In one of my weekly studies we are studying the Thessalonian epistles as a unit.  One of the observations, or better, things that challenged me in that study in the last weeks was the emphasis that Paul placed on the second coming of Christ.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway), Paul states that he knows that the Thessalonian believers already know the truth about the second coming of Christ.  There are several important implications of that statement, but for my purpose here I want to focus on one in particular. 

Paul, as one of the first things that he shared with new believers was the reality of Christ’s return.  We know that because of the record in Acts 17:1 – 10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Paul was only in Thessalonica for about three weeks, possibly only two.  Yet in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway) he states that he knows they already are aware of Christ’s return.  Thus, he must have covered that topic with them.

This is important, probably for several reasons, primarily because of what Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway), we are to be diligent to live in light of Christ’s return.  Here, in the western church, we do not normally live with that in mind.  The ease of our lifestyle, the benefits our economy, insulates us from the difficulties that many, if not most, of our brothers and sisters face on a daily basis.  As a result we do not hunger for His return.  We are comfortable in this world as it is.  Peter, though, tells us we are to be diligent to be found by Him prepared for His return. 

If you knew He was coming today, how would that change what you do, your attitudes, your choices?  In Matthew 25:1 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway), Jesus uses the parable of the 10 virgins to emphasize that we are to be always alert, always ready for His return.  In this culture, we are concerned about many things.  We are terminally busy.  We are caught up in living a comfortable life and all that entails.  We are concerned about politics, national, local, school, and church politics.  We are working to get the best life we can for our families.

I have heard, read, and know people who have focused on really getting down to the business of the Lord in the second half of their life.  Two thoughts, first, that seems to be counter to Christ’s explicit instructions in Matthew 6:25 – 34 (here @ Bible Gateway), we are to seek His Kingdom – first.  Second, we do not know when He is returning, the Scripture tells us that we will never know.  Should He return before we have decided we are ready to seek His Kingdom first, how then will He respond?

There may be one more of these before I summarize… We’ll see…

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Running out of Time, Part 2

Yesterday I shared some of my thoughts since our last trip to MD Anderson.  In the next however many posts, I want to explore some of the implications of the realities that we all face.
Running out of Time, Part 2

Psalm 90:12 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells us that we are to number our days so that we can present to Him a heart of wisdom.  For most of us, it is difficult to consider or think through how much time we have left.

Earlier in the same Psalm we are told that we will live for 70 years or if we are strong, 80 (verse 10 (here @ Bible Gateway)).  In about a week and a half, I will be 68.  Now if I were to go by the Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Foundation (the type of cancer I have) I have about 11 years after diagnosis which was 2015, so based on that metric I have 8 years left, 76.  There may be more time, they are making strides every day.  Further that is an average, could be more or less and it is the type of cancer that some never know they have.

When I consider those numbers several things come to mind.  The first is how can I maximize the utilization of my gifts in the tasks that the Lord has given me in the time that it seems I have left?  Isn’t that the implication of Psalm 90 (here @ Bible Gateway)?  That we are to intentionally follow Him with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength to the end of our days?

However, there are other considerations should color our responses to these exhortations in Psalm 90 (here @ Bible Gateway).  On that, next post.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Running out of Time

This week I had a checkup at MD Anderson.  The typical stuff was the 24-hour urine collection, always a hit, and blood work.  The new thing was a PET Scan.  The purpose of all this was to see how or if the cancer had progressed to the point that treatment was appropriate.
Running out of Time
Wednesday my wife and I met with the doctor to hear and review the results.  We discovered that yes, the cancer had grown, but not enough to warrant treatment.  The new thing that was a surprise, there was a spot on my left lung that had lit up.  It is too small to biopsy and it did not light up much but it seems to be there.

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend in another country.  He asked how things were going and I shared all of this with him.  His response caught me off guard, “Oooh my, your courage is one of the things I admire about you.”

What shocked me about that response was his attributing courage to this situation.  I don’t see it that way.  I think that I shared earlier that when I first heard about having cancer my initial response was, “Hmm, that changes things.”  Followed closely by, “No, Psalm 139:3 (here @ Bible Gateway) was true yesterday, it still is today, this is just another part of the path.  This just changes the logistics.”  As it has turned out thus far, the logistics have changed but are not too difficult.

Further Psalm 139:16 (here @ Bible Gateway), informs me that all my days were set before I started this journey.  Matthew 6:27 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Luke 12:25 (here @ Bible Gateway) inform me that there is nothing that I can do to extend that time by even an hour.  Psalm 49:8 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells me that it is foolish to try.

So it is not so much courage as trust.  It is my conviction that the Word of God is accurate, reflecting the thoughts, nature, and character of the Lord.  It was committed to us in its current form by the Holy Spirit inspiring men to write the words that we read.  Yes, I know that applies to the original autographs which we no longer have.  However, I have studied enough Hebrew and Greek as well as text criticism to know that what we do have is very close to those autographs. 

So, I trust it.  I trust Him.  So, what do we do with all of that?  ...More on that tomorrow...

Friday, June 15, 2018

Creating Cripples, Part 3

In the last two posts, we have considered how people are trained, equipped to successfully carry out the responsibilities of their work.  Whether it be a professional, such as a doctor, lawyer, or accountant; or whether it be one who works as a mechanic, mowing lawns or digging ditches; all are equipped following a similar process.  They are told what to do, instruction.  Someone checks their work either as they are doing it or else after it is complete observation.  They are given feedback on how that work was done and possibly given pointers on how it can be done more effectively critique.
Creating Cripples, Part 3
The contention here is that the one place that does not happen consistently is in the Body of Christ. 

So what do we do instead?  We lecture.

Whether it be Sunday morning, Wednesday fellowship or Bible study, a small group, etc.  A pervasive pattern is that one teaches and the others listen.

So what happens if there is no one to teach? 

What happens if the pastors and teachers are all arrested and either jailed or executed?  That does happen.

What happens if you are not able to go down to the local Christian bookstore and purchase a commentary on a book of the Bible?  In much of the world that is not possible.

If all we do is proclaim the Word, teach from a lectern, a chair, a book that leads someone through a study that we have already done, or have them watch a video on a device, then we are not equipping them to stand on their own in the Scripture.  Those whose only input is what has been described, are not able to open their Bible and with a blank sheet of paper and a pen begin to successfully study God’s Word.

Teaching a person this way makes that person dependent on more of the same teaching.  In a real sense that dependency has crippled their ability to independently walk with God.

If I am reading the Great Commission correctly, Matthew 28:18 – 20 (here @ Bible Gateway); Luke 24:46 – 49 (here @ Bible Gateway); John 17:18, 20:21 (here @ Bible Gateway), and 2 Timothy 2:2 (here @ Bible Gateway) – and at a significant level the passage we started this with, Ephesians 4:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Then it is the responsibility of leaders not to share what they know, necessarily, rather, it is to equip those to whom the Lord has called them to serve to be able to learn what they know through personal engagement in the Word of God.

To do otherwise, it seems to me, is to perpetuate the creation of dependent cripples in the Body of Christ.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Creating Cripples, Part 2

Two days ago I suggested that we are not doing well as a Body in equipping the saints for the work of service, Ephesians 4:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway).
Creating Cripples, Part 2
I used the example of pilots, doctors, engineers, and accountants as examples of how people are equipped for their professions.  I closed the last post by suggesting that professionals are not the only career paths that are equipped in the way I described, essentially instruction, observation, critique.

Consider any job, any task that is performed for a wage.  Regardless of its complexity, the one who performs it will be told what to do, their work will be checked, and they will be given feedback on how they did.  Whether they are a mechanic or a garbage man, that process will be followed in some form.

Now ask yourself, when was the last time that happened with you in your community of faith.  Let’s consider a simple basic of the Christian life.  Say, having a consistent devotional.  Were you shown how to do that, instructed?  Did someone do it with you to show you how, instruction?  Did someone ask or sit with you to see how you were doing your devotional, observation?  Did they give you encouragement or suggest ways to make your devotional more effective, critique?

Yes?  You are in a significant minority.

No?  Your experience is normal.

If we are not equipping in this manner, what then are we doing and how is it working out?

We will consider that in the next post.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Creating Cripples

One of, if not the core, passages in Ephesians (here @ Bible Gateway) is Ephesians 4:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway).  In no uncertain terms, Paul declares the purpose of leadership in the Body of Christ.  It is not to do the work of service, ministry, rather it is to equip those in the Body, the saints, for that ministry.
Creating Cripples
How are we doing on that?

Much of what I have experienced in the western church has been lecture based.  Whether it be a Sunday morning message, a Sunday school, a Wednesday night meeting, or a small group, there is often one who shares and the others either listen and take notes or else respond to what he says.

That seems to be what serves as equipping in the minds of many leaders.

However, I am willing to wager my next year’s wage (truthfully, not a big wager) that is not the way they were equipped to earn their livelihood.

For example.  I was, for a time, an instructor pilot in the Air Force.  To train pilots we gave them a book to read (true), and then sent them out on the flight line to fly the planes (true or false?).

Should we have followed that process, we would have created multiple smoking holes at the end of the runway.  That is not the way pilots were equipped, trained to fly.  Sure they were given a book that explained how the plane worked.  They also had multiple classes that included tests on the material.  Then, an instructor gets in the plane with them, demonstrating, and walking them through each task they needed to complete to successfully fly the plane.  Then, when they were performing those tasks, the instructor would correct their mistakes as well as offer other techniques for completing the task successfully and safely.

In all of the disciplines of which I am aware be it medical, engineering, accounting, the equipping, training is similar.  Men and women are taught, they practice, and they are given feedback about what they did correctly, what they need to do to correct, and thoughts on what they could do differently to make their practice more effective.  By the way, all of their careers are called practices.

But it is not just “professional” careers that follow this model…

This is getting longer than I anticipated.  We will finish this tomorrow…

Thursday, June 7, 2018

God’s Intention

If you do not journal, you should.  Why?  To remember what our Father has done in our lives as well as the context of what He did and how you initially responded.
God’s Intention
I was just reviewing some of last year’s entries in my journal.  Last year contained a violent swirl of emotion.  Three births, two deaths.

I was reading through the entries in March.  Two months after my dad passed away and seven days prior to the birth of our fourth granddaughter.  Her mother had just been readmitted into MD Anderson, she was getting aggressive chemo, and we were in prayer for her and for the baby, not knowing how any of this was going to play out.

It was a hard, emotionally difficult and draining time.

I wrote, “He only takes us through that which makes us more like His Son and equips us for what He has us to do.”

As I read and write that, three passages come to mind.  Psalm 139:3 (here @ Bible Gateway), Ephesians 2:10 (here @ Bible Gateway), and Hebrews 12:10 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway) – just glanced back at the journal and two of those passages are written out after what I wrote with a third, Ephesians 1:4 (here @ Bible Gateway).

What comforted us, what settled us, was the certain knowledge that the things that the Lord brought into our lives were intentional.  They were intended to shape us, to mold us, to equip us for the tasks He had prepared for us.

That was and is informed by studies we have done on God’s sovereignty and God’s love.  For us, those two attributes of God were an anchor through some very difficult times.  Reflecting on this, it occurs to me that we need to equip our children both physical and spiritual with the certain knowledge of both God’s sovereignty and love.

It seems to me that is what will equip them to navigate the painfully difficult paths of this life.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

For Your Sake

Have you ever done something really good in order to get noticed?  Or have you ever wanted to know how you performed as you shared something you found in the Word?  Wondered if you made an impact?  Wondered if anyone noticed?  Probably not, but you may know people who have.
For Your Sake
1 Thessalonians 1:5 (here @ Bible Gateway) is the last three clauses in one of Paul’s famously long sentences.  This one runs from 1 Thessalonians 1:2 – 5 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Three words riveted my attention this time through.  The last three in the NASB translation:

“…for your sake.”

That prepositional phrase modifies – well, I have been mentally diagraming the sentence for the past several minutes…  It either modifies “proved” or further modifies the phrase “to be among you”.  Not sure without spending a lot of time working on the structure.

The point is, Paul was not there for accolades.  He wasn’t interested in recognition for his service.  He wasn’t looking to gain brownie points from the Lord.  He was in Thessalonica for the sake of the Thessalonian people.

They figured that out.

They figured out that they should have the same attitude as the one who brought them the good news of the gospel.  So, following Paul’s example, they became an example to the surrounding areas, Macedonia and Achaia.

It wasn’t about Paul when he was engaged in equipping the Thessalonian believers.  It wasn’t about them as they shared with their neighbors.

The truth of the gospel, the incredible offer of the absolution, forgiveness of our intentional, consistent rebellion against a holy and loving God; is too valuable to tarnish with a misplaced hunger for recognition for sharing that lifeline to one who is condemned.

Yet it seems there are some who are engaged for their own credit.

Truth be known.  I have fought that internal struggle myself.  Still do.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Misled

Job 12:16 (here @ Bible Gateway) is an intriguing passage.  On the one hand, the rebuke of Job at the end of the book could call into question the truthfulness of Job’s assertion here.  On the other hand, there is other evidence in the body of Scripture that what Job says is true.
Misled
For our purposes here, we will stipulate that what he says here is the case, that both those who are misled and those who mislead them belong to Him.

That being the case, what are some implications?  One implication would be that He is in control of the misled and the misleaders.

We see this in the “trial” and crucifixion of Jesus.  The false witnesses, the high priest, Pilate, were are either misled or misleaders and yet were instrumental in bringing about the sacrifice of Christ which was necessary for the forgiveness of our sins and the restoration of our relationship with our creator.

We are to be diligent in studying, practicing, and proclaiming the truth both to our families and to those in our spheres of influence.  In that process, it will be the case that we will encounter those who are misleading or have been misled. 

Personally, I need to remember these are His.  It does not serve any purpose for me to be angry with them, James 1:20 (here @ Bible Gateway).  What I am to do, what I am directed by the Word to do is to gently correct them, 2 Timothy 2:24 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Truthfully, that is not my normal first response.  The less effective anger is what seems to be my default.

Working on that.